“Half Reality, Half Dream, End Reality: These theorists believe that Inception was very straight-forward. Cobb put together a team to perform an inception on Fischer Jr. He did so because the one thing he wanted most was to be reunited with his children again, and that’s what the powerful Saito offered him. So Cobb trains a team and embarks on the dangerous mission that takes him and his crew layers deep into the dreamscape. Eventually, they succeed and Cobb is reunited with his children. The end….
The “Reality” Story-line is a Dream: There are plenty of things that are casting a lot of doubt in people’s minds that what we’re supposed to assume is “reality” is in fact a dream.
- The children didn’t seem to age throughout the movie. On top of that, they’re seen with the exact same clothes on in the exact same position as they were from Cobb’s memory from before he left. Coincidence?
- The chase scene in Mombasa really does play out like a dream sequence. Cobb avoids way too many close encounters, he avoids bullets flying for his head, he pushes through an alley that got narrower and narrower, and he’s conveniently rescued by Saito. Was this all just “too convenient” or was it just like every other action film?
- At the ending after they succeeded the inception when Cobb is walking through the airport, it certainly felt like a dream with the blasting score and the slow motion walking. All of the team members look at Cobb with a smile, and there is Miles waiting to pick Cobb up. Everything works out like Cobb wanted. It was his dream come true… or was it?
Half Reality, Half Dream, End is a Dream: In this theory, the entire “reality” story-line is in fact a reality. Cobb really did assemble a team and performed the inception on Fischer Jr. What is a dream is everything after.
When Cobb gets off the airplane, he has gotten rid of the reason why he can’t dream anymore. He has terminated the guilt he felt for Mal’s death and now can dream. So while the entire movie did happen like it was shown: the plot to pull of the heist was reality and then the four layers of dreams happened until they finally succeeded the inception. But the final scenes (that really did feel and look like a dream) was actually Cobb dreaming. When he is reunited with his children, that is Cobb’s dream and he doesn’t care if it’s real or not.
How is this possible? Well, since Cobb controls his totem, whether the top falls or keeps spinning is simply based on what Cobb believes in. If it falls, then he has accepted that his dream is a reality (just like the way Mal believed their world in Limbo was real). If the top doesn’t fall, he believes he’s in a dream. But we don’t know if the top falls or not. It wobbles, which could mean that Cobb doesn’t quite know what he believes in anymore. He might have a shaky grip on what is reality and what is a dream.
It’s interesting to point out how Cobb doesn’t look back or wait to see if the top stops spinning. All he ever wanted was to be with his children again and he finally achieved that. He doesn’t care if he’s in a dream or not.
Mal was correct all along: Mal and Cobb have been stuck in limbo for fifty years where they grow old together and construct a world for themselves that includes memories of their past houses. When they commit suicide on the railroad tracks, they wake up in a world that Cobb believes is reality, but in fact it’s a dream. No matter how convinced Cobb is that they’re in reality and their children are real, Mal doesn’t believe him. She knows they’re still dreaming and they need to commit suicide to get back to the real world. The problem is that Mal won’t do it without her love, Cobb.
This explains why the things that happen in “reality” seem like a dream, such as the children never aging, the alley shrinking in Mombasa, and how the top doesn’t stop spinning at the end. Mal is waiting for Cobb to finally understand that he’s in a dream world. Unfortunately, Cobb undergoes an emotional ride that concludes in him letting go of his wife. At the end, he’s happily with his children without Mal. The reason why he doesn’t turn around to see if the top is spinning is because he doesn’t care. His dream has become his reality.
The “Reality” Story-line is Someone Else’s Dream: The trick to this theory is how people know what Cobb’s totem is and how it works. As Arthur stated when he was telling Ariadne what a totem was, it’s a no-no to let anyone else know your totem and how it reacts. If someone else knows it, they’ll be able to structure their dream and will know the properties of Cobb’s totem, so if he spins it they know exactly what he’s looking for.
This means that all of the “reality” scenes could be someone else’s dream… or maybe just some “reality” scenes.
There was an inception being performed on Cobb: Just like how Cobb and team performed the inception in Fischer Jr., theorists are saying an inception was performed on Cobb. If this is the case, then what was the idea they wanted to plant in Cobb’s mind? That would be to finally get rid of the guilt he was holding onto his wife and finally let go of her.
How could have this been possible? Let’s explore the very elaborate plan:
When Cobb is recruiting his team members for the heist on Fischer Jr., he visits Yusuf, the chemist. They bring him downstairs where a number of elderly people are sleeping and dreaming. Cobb tests out the sedative to see how potent it really is. When he “awakes” from his dream, he goes into the bathroom to wash his face (something we all do to wake ourselves up). He then spins his totem, but it falls to the ground. Before Cobb can do a proper spin, Saito interrupts him. It’s possible that Cobb is already in someone else’s dream at this point.
In the movie it’s stated that the target must realize the idea of his inception by using positive emotion. As Cobb said in the movie, positive trumps negative every time. We see throughout the film as Cobb goes through an emotional transformation. He bears the weight of incredible guilt that he was the cause of his wife’s death. He couldn’t let her go because of that. He trapped her memories and often visited them, driving him mad and making her memory a dangerous and uncontrollable part of his subconscious.
Theorists point out that Ariadne was very attentive to Cobb’s emotion and history… maybe a bit too concerned. She wanted to know what was wrong with Cobb and she found out. Once she did, she wanted to help Cobb get rid of the guilt. She was there to witness Cobb’s elevator of memories; Cobb revealed Mal’s suicide to her; and she was there when Cobb finally had his realization that he had to let Mal go.
Mal represented the evil in Cobb. She was a danger to everyone else that joined a shared dream world with him. He couldn’t control her. I’m not exactly sure who would’ve wanted to perform the inception on Cobb. Maybe it was the corporation he worked for. Or maybe it was Miles. Maybe Miles knew that Cobb had to let go of Mal for him to safely be with his kids again and for him to be the father his children desperately needed. It must be noted that Miles is the one who gave Ariadne to Cobb. Also, Miles is the one who picks up Cobb from the airport.
This theory would explain why the children never seem to age nor change their clothes. They’re simply a memory that Cobb keeps thinking about. The children is Cobb’s positive driving force that allows him to finally get rid of his guilt for Mal….
There was an extraction performed on Cobb, then an inception: What if there was an extraction performed on Cobb, which was for Ariadne to find out what Cobb’s totem is and how it worked. This extraction was done in the first layer of dreaming, which is Ariadne’s dream. Then they went on to perform the inception on Cobb to get rid of his guilt that he was holding on for Mal.
- It’s all Mal’s dream
- Mal is a forger and is in disguise as Ariadne
- Mal and the children don’t exist
- They’re in Saito’s dream
- Cinematical – Dissecting ‘Inception’: Six Interpretations… “Interpretation 1: All of Inception is a dream. We are never once shown reality. Every frame of Inception is a dream. Whose dream? My money is on Cobb, though it is conceivable that Cobb is simply the subject and that he is in someone else’s dream (see Interpretation 3 and 4...
- SCI FI TV: Inception – The Alternate Viewpoint “As the film comes to its conclusion. Dom gets what he wants and settles in to live happily ever after. He resolves his issues deep in his subconscious and emerges purged of the ties that bound him into a dream world of recurring guilt and pain. Here, perhaps, is the...
- Slate – Five Ways of Looking at Inception “READING 1: Saito hired Cobb and co. to plant an idea in Fischer’s mind. They succeed, and in the end Cobb really does go home to his kids. READING 1A: Saito hired Cobb and co. to plant an idea in Fischer’s mind, but the ending—everything from the moment Cobb “wakes...
- Nolan Fans Forum – My Theory on Cobb and the Ending “I am convinced that Cobb is still dreaming at the end from some pretty cohesive clues; of course, please debate with me on my theories! I’m quite sure now, but I might not have caught something that you did . 1) The two sets of children: In the credits, there...
- ScreenRant – Inception Ending Explained (and Discussion) “…At the beginning of the film, after the first job Cobb’s team tries to pull on Saito, we see Cobb sitting in his hotel room alone, spinning the top and watching it intently, gun in hand. This is a guy who is ready to blow his brains out if the...